- August 14, 2015
What comes to mind when you think of tax season? Chances are it’s not hopscotch.
But hopscotch is an essential part of the culture at Sarasota-based accounting firm Kerkering Barberio, where the firm turns up the fun quotient during a time of year best known for being busy and deadline-filled.
“It comes back to culture,” says Kerkering Barberio Chief Administrative Officer Tracy O’Neill. “We know we work very hard, and we want people to enjoy being here. Having those fun activities helps to break up the day, and especially at the busiest times of year, it builds that team spirit and camaraderie.”
In tax season, the firm organizes a seven-minute daily walk. Employees do two flights of stairs and a loop around the parking garage. Activities are added to the walks, too, from hopscotch to hula hooping. The company gives out prizes during walks, including $5 Starbucks gift cards popular with employees.
Marketing Coordinator Bethany Silvis organizes the walks and other fun company events. She says on any given day, about 20 to 30 people participate in the walk.
‘Having those fun activities helps to break up the day, and especially at the busiest times of year, it builds that team spirit and camaraderie.’ — Tracy O’Neill, Kerkering Barberio & Co.
If the seven-minute time frame sounds specific, it is — and it’s intentional. “We keep it to a manageable number so it’s not a huge interruption to the day but enough time to give people a break away from desk and time together,” says O’Neill.
Kerkering Barberio also organizes bingo games, a Halloween costume contest and activities that raise money for charitable causes such as United Way. In the past, employees have participated in an ugly sweater contest and a bake sale to raise money for community efforts.
To mark the end of tax season, the firm throws a party on the roof of the adjacent parking garage with catered food and a band. “After the huge deadline was over, it’s nice way to get everyone outside,” says Silvis. “We get a larger turnout when we don’t have to go too far.”
To inject fun into an office, O’Neill and Silvis recommend developing a plan and identifying a few activities to start with. Collecting feedback from staff about what activities they enjoy can also help with planning.
“It doesn’t have to be big,” O’Neill says. “People appreciate even little things like having a snow cone or ice cream truck come. If you’re all work and no play, it doesn’t make for the best environment. There’s got to be those times to let off some steam and create variance to the detailed, focused work we do.”
Atlas Professional Services in Tampa has dialed up the fun, too. Fun is even embedded in the IT services provider's physical space — a new office it's building has a game room and lounge complete with a coffee area, Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, liquor cabinet and outdoor deck. Plus, the lobby has a candy machine where employees can grab a handful of M&Ms or Skittles. President and CEO Greg Zolkos says retention is important for the company, and fun is a key retention tool.
Like Kerkering Barberio, Atlas participates in fun events to raise money for charities, from bowling and golf tournaments to 5Ks and clay shoots.
Atlas hosts its own events throughout the year, too, like a company picnic, holiday party, chili cook-off and open house for family and friends. People throughout the company plan events, from Zolkos himself to the CFO to members of the firm’s “fun committee.”
At the office, meanwhile, the company regularly plays games like “Geek of the Week” and “Ace of the Place” that reward employees with restaurant gift cards and cash. “We try to make it fun,” Zolkos says. “We realize we work with each other just as much as we’re with our families, so we should make it fun.”
Being better in business sometimes requires a road map to figure out some thorny issues. Click the links below to read more from the Business Observer’s annual how-to guide: